Food and Wine Pairings - Part 1

It's the moment of truth.  A special occasion, you're at the restaurant and the overbearing sommelier is waiting impatiently for your choice for the evening's wine.  You have made your dinner choices but have no idea what to pair with it. Panic sets in.  What do you do?

 Relax, stare that sommelier in the face and confidently order  whatever you like, because ultimately his job is to make your  experience better, whatever you decide.  That said, while  increasingly the philosophy is "don't worry about the rules,  drink what you like", there are some simple guidelines to  ensure the wine is enhancing not diminishing the enjoyment of  your meal.

Over the next few months these articles will be discussing different ways to pair food with wine.  It will start with a little background information on wine, and then move on to the first way to pair food and wine - by region.

Wine has been a part of life for more than 3000yrs.  For much of that time, pollution and disease actually made it safer to drink wine than water.  As such, fermented beverages were consumed with every meal.  Over the years, regional winemaking and culinary traditions evolved together. Modern wine pairing techniques are a relatively recent development as a result of increased transportation of wine from one region to another.

This leads us to one of the best "guidelines" to follow when pairing wines, which is to pair wine with the food they grew up with.  That is, wine from a specific region is usually best paired with the dishes most often eaten in that region. For example, a brightly acidic Chianti, with flavours of sour cherry, herbs, smoke & game, will pair perfectly with a pasta in Bolognese sauce, which are both from the Tuscany region of Italy.  The acidity of the wine will be able to stand up to the acidity of the tomato based sauce while cutting through the fattiness derived from the meat.  Another example of a great regional pairing is Burgundy red with the French classic beef bourguignon.  The full-bodied Burgundian Pinot Noir with its black currant, cherry, earthiness and spice is exactly what the local stew of braised beef, mushrooms, onions and garlic is asking for.

 You can try oysters with a French Muscadet, as it is  known as the perfect oyster wine.  It also pairs well with  other seafood from the Loire valley region in France, such  as lobster, shrimp, and mullet.  Its crisp acidity allows it to  cut through rich and creamy foods, while its low alcohol  content allows it to complement many dishes without  overwhelming any subtl0e flavors.  You could also try a  Riesling or Gruner Veltliner from Germany with a dish like  schnitzel.  These wines can be quite acidic which will help  to cut through the fattiness of this fried dish.  The high  acidity and sweetness of German Rieslings can act as a  good balance to foods with high salt content, as  mentioned before - schnitzel.  

These are just a few examples of the myriad of regional cuisine and wine pairings waiting to grace your table.  Pairing wine with food from its region of origin is a simple way to get started, stay tuned for next month's article with more tips on wine pairings.

Grant Soutar - Restaurant Manager